Microsoft Develops Accurate Wrist-Mounted Motion Controller


A highly sensitive gesture-sensing peripheral could replace mice and keyboards someday.

Listening to the complete works of Mozart on your smartphone or pulling classic games out of thin air with a tablet can make regular desktop work seem positively Paleolithic by comparison. The mouse and keyboard have been the computer’s de facto input devices for decades, but Microsoft is looking to change that. Inspired by its own Kinect, technicians at Microsoft have developed a wrist-mounted, gesture-sensing controller, sensitive enough to read and interpret the motions of individual fingers.

The device, which goes under the “Digits” moniker, resembles a large wristwatch, and uses a number of infrared LEDs and a camera to track its user’s manual motions. David Kim, the Digits project leader, explains that the device emulates the Kinect in scope, but aims to be much more accurate in practice. “It shouldn’t interfere with daily activity, and we wanted to enable continuous interaction,” he says. The Digits prototype can plug into a PC or laptop and navigate through very subtle hand gestures. For example, pressing a thumb and forefinger together might skip a music track.

The device also has videogame applications. In addition to potentially allowing the fine control that games like Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor could have desperately used, Digits has the potential to enhance educational games for hearing-impaired children. “If we had finger-tracking wristwatches they could put on and play the game, we could look at how their fingers move through time, and give them feedback,” says Thad Starner, another researcher in the field of computer peripherals. “That would be really beneficial.”

Unless there’s a breakout hit for the Kinect soon, Microsoft’s motion controller for the Xbox 360 will most likely be remembered as a stepping stone for novel tech projects and more immersive controllers in the future. With any luck, Digits will make good on Microsoft’s potential for novel input mechanisms.

Source: New Scientist

Image: New Scientist

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